Monday, November 15, 2010

Separating Players By Server/Faction

Last week we had a seemingly minor story about Blizzard expanding cross server group finding.  When the process is complete, all North American servers will be combined for the purposes of random PVP battlegrounds, and servers will be split into four groups of battlegroups for the purposes of the dungeon finder. 

The thing I find interesting about this story is that it's seemingly a step towards a single global server for the game.  WoW already supports cross-server chat with members of your random instance group, and I don't see any technical reason why the game couldn't eventually allow players to type "/invite playername servername" to add their friends from any server in the region, if not the world, to their groups. One might imagine that allowing players to actually PLAY with their friends would be great way to encourage the use of Battle.net as a social networking platform (which appears to be a major goal over at Acti-Blizzard). 

Such a transition would not come without cost.  Server communities would have less and less meaning, though even the current limited cross-server-dungeon-finder has already started us down that path.  There is in principle a lore issue with allowing Alliance and Horde players to team up (though both sides tend to kill the exact same foes in the exact same dungeons).  Perhaps most important to Blizzard, the lucrative paid character transfer services would be much less attractive if they were not necessary to switch over to the server where your friends are playing. 

Then again, helping players meet up with their friends may be worth far more in the long run, as a way to keep players involved in the game and actually wanting to come back and pay more subscription fees.  As the technological barriers come down, it will be very interesting to see whether Blizzard thinks the price is worthwhile. 

5 comments:

Arcturan Megadonkey said...

"...I don't see any technical reason why the game couldn't eventually allow players to type "/invite playername servername" to add their friends from any server in the region..."

Indeed, I don't either. I assume the only reason we haven't seen something like that sooner is the amount of back-end programming effort necessary to refactor and retrofit it into their current environment. Not that it's a hard problem to solve but I imagine their developers have been tied up with Cataclysm.

Given that there's barely any server identity to players as it is with the current dungeon finder implementation, from Blizzard's perspective I see it as less of a gameplay decision to make and more as a question of whether they should devote the resources to implementing it.

Personally, I strongly dislike anything that reduces a sense of community in an MMO which I suppose is why I feel so dirty when I (and I imagine others) admit to friends that I've recently re-subbed to WoW.

Bronte said...

I for one certainly hope that works out. I have a European WoW account and a US WoW account, in addition to a European Starcraft II account and a US Starcraft II account. While it's good strategy to mooch more money off of people like me with friends spread and flung far and wide, it is, admittedly, really beginning to piss me off!

Dàchéng said...

Perhaps it's time for the Alliance and Horde to bury the hatchet and make peace.

The only problem with that would be that there would be no more PvP.

Shintar said...

Perhaps most important to Blizzard, the lucrative paid character transfer services would be much less attractive if they were not necessary to switch over to the server where your friends are playing.

On the other hand, being able to befriend people on other servers might encourage transfers? As in, next time your guild doesn't work out, why not move over to be with your dungeon finder buddies on a different realm?

Buboe said...

An unintended consuequence of this has been a steep decline in the quality of Oceanic PUGs.
I have never really been exposed to the levels of asshattery that I continually see replayed in WoW blogs, playing for several years in Thaurissan and Khaz'goroth (both mostly aussie/NZ/sing/filo servers.
But the last two nights have been a constant parade of douches, all of whom appear to be American. (They talk about other peoples' "mom", a spelling no aussie would ever use.)
Ahhh well.